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Studio Contra among Shortlist to design £120m London School of Economics academic building with Alison Brooks Architects

March 1, 2022

LSE unveils global talent in shortlist to design £120m academic building in landmark competition

The London School of Economics (LSE) has revealed the six architects shortlisted to design the final ‘set piece’ academic building on its campus. The finalists include Alison Brooks teaming up with Nigerian practice Studio Contra, and David Chipperfield with London practice Feix & Merlin.

Also on the shortlist is a team comprising John McAslan + Partners, US-based Tod Williams/Billie Tsien Architects and Bangladesh architect Marina Tabassum. The list is completed by Danish architect Dorte Mandrup with London-based John Robertson Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley with Danish practice Lendager, and Belfast-based Hall McKnight.

The RIBA-organised competition is for ‘an exceptional piece of university architecture’ on the site of 35 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, formerly home to the Royal College of Surgeons.

The new 12,540m² academic building will house the Firoz Lalji Global Hub and will feature conference facilities, teaching spaces and digital labs. It will also be home to a film studio, a 350-seat theatre, seminar rooms, break-out areas, research accommodation and a café. The LSE said it received responses from over 100 architectural practices from across the world.

Walters & Cohen co-founder Cindy Walters, who is acting as RIBA architect adviser to the LSE, said: ‘The shortlist is a rich and balanced mix of extraordinary architectural talent, who have all placed environmental sustainability front and centre of their aspirations for the project. The selection process has been rigorous and inclusive and reflects the ambition of the exceptional client that the LSE has become.’

Competition judges include LSE director of estates Julian Robinson; LSE director and president Monouche Shafi; Ricky Burdett, professor at LSE Cities; LSE Students’ Union general secretary Josie Stephens; and Firoz Lalji, a Ugandan-born former student and IT entrepreneur who is sponsoring the project.

The LSE has invested more than £500 million in transforming its London Aldwych campus over the past 15 years, and is now turning its attention towards ‘underperforming and inadequate buildings’ in its drive to become net zero carbon by 2030. The existing building at 35 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, within the Strand Conservation Area, was leased to LSE in 2017 and neighbours the Grade II-listed former Land Registry, which Jestico + Whiles converted into a research centre for the university eight years ago. Pilbrow & Partners previously completed a feasibility study proposing a new office building for the Royal College of Surgeons on the plot in 2013.

In the competition brief, the LSE’s architectural advisers suggest either retaining part of the core structure of 35 Lincoln’s Inn Fields to save embodied carbon – although this could require careful balancing to achieve desired efficiency and floor areas – or demolition to street level while preserving most of the basement areas.

The shortlisted teams will present their proposals to the jury panel in mid-May.

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